Tag Archives: Museum

National Museum of the Air Force

by Melanie and Jim 

You may have seen some of our posts about our travel to Yellowstone and back. That’s only one of the four road trips we’ve done in the past few weeks. Recently we also headed the other direction, to southern Ohio. On the way we visited the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton.

The museum has a number of galleries inside. The interior collections include the early years of flight, aircraft from World Wars One and Two, Korea and Vietnam, and current times. There are cargo planes, a variety of fighters and spy planes, intercontinental missiles, and experimental craft. Presidential and other executive transport planes, space travel, and Cold War air memorabilia are shown. Outside the huge hangars are more planes and a memorial park.

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Valentines | Old Time Cowboys

by Melanie and Jim

Nebraska is a long state, about 430 miles from east to west. We stayed overnight in Sioux City, Iowa, and got an early start on U.S. 20. It would be several hours before we reached our goal for the day, somewhere in western Nebraska. In the past we only crossed the state on Interstate 80. The elevation changes on I-80, across the southern half of the state, are tiny. It follows the North Platte River most of the way. U.S. 20, Bridges to Buttes Byway, took us across the northern counties, different rivers, the Sandhills country, and showed us some beautiful sights.

We had lunch in Valentine, Nebraska. The Niobrara River is a great rafting, canoeing, and kayaking destination. The post office participates annually in the Valentine’s Day postmarking of tens of thousands of cards and letters to loved ones. And this according to Wikipedia:

As late as 1967, Valentine was split between two time zones. As described in one news report, “The mountain and central time zones meet at the center of Main Street, so an hour separates the two curb lines.” According to the report, when clocks were required to be set back one hour for daylight saving time, Valentine’s post office (which was in the central zone) split the difference and turned back its clock by only half an hour.

By mid-afternoon we reached the town of Gordon and were ready for another break. A sign advertised the Old Time Cowboys Museum. We stopped to ask some guys who were fixing a pothole where it was. We didn’t expect much as we turned the next corner.

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Scotland | Edinburgh Castle and Museums

by Jim and Melanie

So far, the focus of our Scotland vacation blog posts has been on the holiday barge trip we enjoyed the first week. Our travels also included several days in Edinburgh. Our first day was upon arrival before heading north by train to Inverness. After the barge trip, we returned to Edinburgh for three days. Lastly, we enjoyed one more day after our whisky distilleries tour. This post presents some highlights of all three of those occasions in the marvelous city.

First Impressions

We arrived mid-day at the airport and made our way to where we would spend the night. It was only a few blocks from the Royal Mile in the Old Town. The Royal Mile is a series of streets running downhill from the Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace to the east. The descent is from 109 meters above sea level at the castle, to 42 meters at the palace. The thoroughfare is the busiest tourist area in the city. The street was built upon the glacial debris behind the volcanic plug upon which the castle sits. (See more about the Royal Mile and its geology and history here.)

After getting settled into our room, we ventured out to explore and find a place to eat. We walked up the Royal Mile and back again. We explored a few side streets and narrow passages called closes. More about closes in this post. Tourist shops were everywhere, with tartans, kilts, whiskies, and shortbreads in abundance. People from all over the world enjoyed the sights and sounds. Bagpipes could be heard. Street performers (buskers) gathered crowds. The old gray stone buildings rose up with a wide variety of ornamentations. Statues and public memorials were everywhere.

Our train for Inverness was scheduled late the next morning. We packed our bags and rolled them toward a place where we could get breakfast. Afterward, we crossed the Royal Mile and headed toward the train station. This was our view across the tracks. Click on either picture to open them in gallery.

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Dubuque | Mines of Spain | River Museum

by Melanie and Jim

October included our 35th wedding anniversary. To celebrate, we drove 90 minutes to the city of Dubuque, Iowa, on the Mississippi River. There we visited the Mines of Spain recreation area and National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. We enjoyed dinner that evening and an overnight stay at our favorite B&B in town.

The City of Dubuque

Dubuque, a city of about 58,000 residents and five colleges, sits on the banks of the Mississippi River, in the northeast part of Iowa. It’s one of the oldest permanent settlements of Europeans west of the great river, and the oldest one in Iowa itself. The original settlement dates from the 1780s, as a prime location with trapping and hunting, fishing, and logging. In addition, the area had long been a site for lead mining by the Mesquakie tribe, and later by white settlers. The city was chartered in 1837. You can see the evidence of its age in local architecture. Almost 5,000 properties are documented for historical and architectural significance. These include churches, former boarding houses, grand mansions, and shipyards.

One shop in particular, the Iowa Iron Works, started as an iron foundry and machine shop in 1852. The site was responsible for building about 500 boats on the shore of the river. One of them was the Sprague, the largest paddle wheel steamboat on the river at 318 feet in 1901. The company reorganized in 1904 into the Dubuque Boat and Boiler Works. Many boats built by the company were for the government during World Wars I and II.

Mines of Spain

The history of this region goes back a long time. Early Native American cultures dating back 8,000 years left evidence of mounds, villages, rock shelters, and campsites on the landscape. The Mesquakie traded furs with French voyagers and worked the lead mines in the bluffs along the river before the Revolutionary War.

The first European to settle here was Julien Dubuque about 1785. He received a land grant from the Governor of Spain in 1796 giving him permission to work the land and mine for lead in an area named “Mines of Spain.” Dubuque married the daughter of the local Mesquakie Indian Chief. Dubuque died 24 March 1810. The Mesquakie buried him with honors at the site of the present monument on a bluff overlooking the region.

The Mines of Spain park is now a favorite recreation spot for locals and visitors, alike. It features bluff-side trails, as is common with river parks in the Midwest. With both of us recovering from knee problems, we weren’t incredibly ambitious with our hiking. However, we did enjoy two different trails with a total distance of about three miles. Views of the river, seen from different overlooks on the trails, still include barges and riverboats, much as they did 150 years ago.

National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

The Mississippi River has a rich and colorful history. It touched the lives of many as it flowed from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Owned by the Dubuque County Historical Society, the museum is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution.

The museum features the culture and history of America’s rivers. There are over a dozen aquariums featuring river wildlife and animals found at the Gulf of Mexico. You can see giant blue and channel catfish, sturgeon, ducks, frogs, turtles, rays, octopus, river otters. Other exhibits include steam boilers, boats building hardware, and a woodworking shop. Children seemed excited to look through the clear tank walls and even had opportunities to touch some of the animals. We found it all very interesting.

We headed back home the next day and stopped at a favorite nearby park. Palisades -Kepler State Park hugs the Cedar River. Bluff-side trails give opportunities for more challenging hiking, with lots of roots and rocks and ups and downs. We didn’t take photos this time. However, three years ago we did and shared them in this post.

Meet Me in Kansas City

by Jim and Melanie

The phone rang Thursday evening. It was our son. He had a three day weekend coming up. His other last-minute attempts to plan some diversion didn’t pan out. Would we meet him halfway, in Kansas City.

We’re not the most spontaneous people in the world, but we agreed to meet him on Saturday at a hotel in downtown KC, MO. It was well-located near the spots we wanted to visit. After driving through blizzard conditions for part of our trip, we arrived safely.

None of us had spent time there before, but we all had ideas of what to see and do. First on the list was the historic Union Station. As with many old city train stations, it had been a hub for both passenger and freight travel. The old building had fallen into disrepair and disuse. Efforts to renovate were successful, and it again serves as a hub for the city and as an Amtrak station.

Of course you can’t go to Kansas City without stopping for barbecue. Son had already eaten a full lunch of it, but was game to go for dinner, too. We went to Arthur Bryant’s for ribs, burnt ends, and a perfect potato salad.

Sunday began with a tourist experience of a different kind. Our son is interested in the brewing of beer and the distilling of spirits. He wanted us to tour the Boulevard Brewing Company plant. The tour included free sampling, so before heading there, we had a quick lunch of empanadas, arepas, and black beans.

Though naps were tempting, we wanted to take in two more destinations before giving in. In the 18th and Vine district, one building houses the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. In addition, there is a fine gallery of jazz-related art, most of it two-dimensional. The baseball museum was especially fascinating. Anyone who cares about either baseball or the history of post-Civil War segregation could spend many hours immersed in the rich collection of photos, film clips, and memorabilia. No photos were allowed, but we urge you to visit if you have the chance.

The day was punctuated with dinner at a restaurant called the Vietnam Cafe. It is located in an old store-front building on the corner of two very narrow streets. Tightly packed tables filled quickly, customers wanting to assure their meal before closing time of 6:00. We started with a dish of beef pho, with delicate, aromatic broth. We each ordered a separate entree and ate eagerly. The flavors were balanced well and layered, without the heavy hit of soy sauce that often comes with Americanized Asian foods.

Besides the meals and tourist stops, we all enjoyed the landscape. Broad expanses covered with rail tracks, beat-down commercial districts, and historic buildings gave plenty to take in. Kansas City proved to be much more interesting and diverse than we could have guessed. Next time Son asks us to meet him, we’ll say “Kansas City, here I come!”